Once Cassidy Jo Rowe got a scholarship offer from Kentucky coach
Matthew Mitchell, things got a little "crazy" for the Shelby Valley
"The local (TV) news channels starting making stories about me. It's
just crazy that so many people know me. It shows the hard work I put
in and it was just an honor to get that offer," said the eastern
She's now got five Division I offers — before she ever starts high
school. Murray, Northern Kentucky and Morehead all offered before UK.
A few days after the UK offer, she got one from Denver.
Unlike most eastern Kentucky athletes, Rowe did not grow up a
Kentucky fan. Instead, she's been a Louisville fan.
"But since Kentucky showed interest in me, I started paying
attention to them and their coaching staff has been so good to me,"
Rowe, who played against incoming UK freshman Blair Green of Harlan
County in summer ball, said. "Coach Mitchell likes the fact that I
always hustle and the way I take charge on the court."
Her father, Lonnie, who was recently named the new head coach at
Shelby Valley after coaching the middle school team before, said you
could likely count the Louisville fans in their area on one hand.
However, one of them is Lonnie Rowe.
"I grew up watching Louisville in the early 80's when Louisville
basketball was fun," Lonnie Rowe said. "What I liked, she liked when
she was little. I take a lot of ribbing for being a Louisville fan. I
am easy to get along with but I understand with all the trouble the
men's basketball program has had why I get some ribbing. But I never
rooted against Kentucky. I am mainly just a fan of basketball."
Cassidy Jo Rowe, age 15, averaged 9.9 points and 3.3 rebounds per
game last year for Shelby Valley (29-5). She was 53 of 144 from 3-
point range (38 percent).
"No one really mentions my 3-point shooting but that is one of my
best things," Cassidy Jo Rowe said. "Usually everyone looks at me
hustling, trying to make teammates better. But I work hard to be a
Her father never saw the UK offer coming so early.
"It shocked all of us. She performed really well in Chicago (for
Kentucky Premier in AAU play) and UK coaches came to every game,"
Lonnie Rowe said. "I knew they liked her but had no idea they would
offer. It's normal to get to know kids for down the road. They stayed
in close contact with her last summer. So even though she's been a
Louisville fan, she was ecstatic to get the offer from Kentucky."
Rowe tore the anterior cruciate ligament in her knee earlier this
month. She knows the normal recovery period is six to nine months but
hopes to return in time to play this season.
"It's going to be tough not playing. I am going to want to work as
hard as I can and they might have to tell me to slow down," the
Shelby Valley freshman, who had surgery last week, said. "All these
offers are just motivation to get better and just knowing these
people and coaches believe in me really motivates me to just keep
working and get even better. We'll see how it goes. I am not sure
what I will do with my recruiting because right now my focus has to
be on rehab and just getting back out on the court."
She came home the same day she had the surgery and started physical
therapy the next day on her own.
"She is one of the most self driven kids I have ever coached,"
Lonnie Rowe said. "She has always been like that."
Damien Harris has two national championships
Former Madison Southern standout Damien Harris, who rushed for 6,748
yards and 122 touchdowns in his high school career, picked Alabama
over Kentucky and now has won two national championships going into
his senior season.
"It was an honor getting to say I made it out and kind of putting
the state on the map," Harris said. "They've had other guys recruited
since then. It was a great feeling, especially when Kentucky is
looked at as a basketball state. That's just kind of the mindset that
it's not really a football state. I'm glad to be where I am, but I'm
also glad to be where I'm from."
Harris opted to return to Alabama for his senior season rather than
go to the NFL and now is projected as the top running back in the SEC—
a projection that Kentucky junior running back Benny Snell obviously
does not agree with (Harris and Snell were both named to the
preseason all-SEC first team in voting at the SEC Media Days last week).
Harris says there no chance of any complacency for him or his
teammates due to coach Nick Saban—much like UK basketball players say
the same thing about John Calipari.
"No matter who we are playing, no matter what week it is in the
season, whether we are playing a power five team or not, or whether
we are playing in the national championship or not, one thing that we
always focus on is just being the best team we can be," Harris said
at the SEC Media Days. "We are confident in the fact that if we play
our best football, offense, defense and special teams, that we are
capable of being the best team in the country, year in and year out."
Harris also made it clear that Alabama players get the same royal
treatment in Tuscaloosa that UK basketball players do in Lexington.
"I love being a part of the University of Alabama. The mindset
across the entire University of Alabama is that we are champions,
whether it is from an academic standpoint or an athletic standpoint.
I love walking down the street in Tuscaloosa and somebody rolling
down their windows when they drive by and are yelling ‘Roll Tide,'"
"There are just so many things about being a part of the University
of Alabama and living in Tuscaloosa that bring us so much joy as
athletes. Coming back for my senior year wasn't hard."
Now that is one difference from Kentucky basketball because Calipari
seldom gets a player to come back for a second year, much less a
Smith enjoyed being back in Lexington
Tubby Smith thoroughly enjoyed being back in Lexington again last
week to play in the PGA Tour's Barbasol Championship pro-am and hopes
to be back again next year.
"I would love to come back and I always come back any time they
invite me," he said. "I was really glad to get invited because this
is really special for Lexington. We miss being here. I loved seeing
all the fans. It was good to see some old friends.
"I spent a lot of years of my coaching career here. There are still
a lot of ties to this area for me. It's just good to be back."
Smith was on Rick Pitino's staff at UK and then led Kentucky to the
1998 national championship — he was back in Lexington in April for an
autograph session with his national championship players — when he
became head coach after Pitino left for the Boston Celtics. Smith
eventually left UK for Minnesota and has also been head coach at
Texas Tech and Memphis since then. Now he's in his first year as head
coach at High Point, his alma mater, that he says he hopes to grow
into a "Butler-type program" going forward.
Smith has nothing but praise for what John Calipari has done with
the Kentucky program and admits he would like for High Point to play UK.
"He has done an unbelievable job with the program. I've been very
impressed," Smith said. "I think they are really going to have a good
team again this year, too."
UK is first in returning defensive production
It might be hard to believe, but Kentucky actually ranks first in
the SEC in returning defensive production. However, coach Mark Stoops
knows as important as experience is, having a defensive front that
can control the line of scrimmage is even more important.
"It starts upfront. I've said it from day one, we're building. We're
recruiting. We're doing the best we can to play at the level that it
takes in this league," Stoops said at SEC Media Days. "Great defenses
in this league are dominated by defensive lineman. And we are getting
much better. I feel much more solid about where we've been."
He said sophomore nose guard Quinton Bohanna has him "excited" about
this season and moving sophomore Josh Paschal from linebacker to the
defensive front will be a big boost.
"He's a guy you give him a biscuit, and he can get to 300 pounds,
but he's athletic enough to play on the edge," Stoops said about
Paschal. "I really love the way he's playing the game. He's very
athletic, very twitchy. He makes plays."
The good thing is that Paschal and Bohanna have older, experienced
teammates to lean on.
"Adrian Middleton going into his senior year, he's made some plays
for us and been consistent, look forward to him making a big jump,"
Stoops said. "We have a guy Phil Hoskins, who is very big, very
strong. I love the energy, the attitude. I love how tough he plays.
He's twitchy, and he has some size. T.J. Carter is another guy inside.
"We have some bodies and that's where we need to make the big jump.
Across the board, I challenge all of them to play at a higher level
and a much more consistent level, and I think we're going to do that."
Robic plays in charity golf scramble
Kentucky assistant basketball coach John Robic has played in Swings
For Soldiers, the annual golf scramble that former UK tight end Jacob
Tamme and his wife put on to raise money to build specially adapted
homes for wounded veterans.
It's the type of "servant leadership" that coach John Calipari
stresses to his players and Robic says what Tamme does is another
example that can be used with the basketball players.
"We try to stress that you have to give back. I think our guys who
have come through here and then moved on do give back and you see
that in various ways," Robic said. "They are fortunate enough to be
in that position to be able to give back."
Robic believes most UK basketball players understand they are
fortunate to be at Kentucky but don't always totally grasp how much
they can help others immediately. However, many of Calipari's former
players have made significant contributions once they became
established NBA player.
"To see them move on as young kids and come back as grown men is
special. Coach tries to tell these guys it is more than just about
the moment. It's the big picture," Robic said. "Financially many of
them are in position where they can really help not only their
families but their communities and cities where they are from. That
is important for them. It means we have done something right and
steered them in the right direction like somebody obviously did with
Quote of the Week: "It is coming up quickly. We are getting ready to
practice before we go. That will be invaluable for this team and
going down and playing four games will be great as well. It will have
a huge impact for our team," UK basketball assistant coach John Robic
on the upcoming exhibition games in the Bahamas.
Quote of the Week 2: "I don't go into a game day without watching
Von Miller and Khalil Mack. I watch them every week and learn from
them," Kentucky linebacker Josh Allen on NFL players he watches to
help his game.
Quote of the Week 3: "Some of our best players on our team are our
leaders now. I just see in general a lot more maturity, a lot more
people who are starting to get it. It's just starting to click for
some of these guys," Kentucky tight end C.J. Conrad on biggest
difference in UK football this season.